Crystal Marshall-Krauss and her colleagues at the district office in Howard County, Maryland have created a fun way to excite teachers about professional development. They’ve created “Happy Apples” subscription boxes for their teachers around a variety of subjects. Learn about this innovative PD idea and how your district can craft these boxes for your teachers.
This week I’ll be sharing the 7 Pedagogical Shifts That Make Interactive Displays a Key to a Student-Centered Classroom on the Cool Cat Teacher blog sponsored by SMART Technologies. Shift #1 is that Students are collaborators. My interactive display is the common workspace for the whole class. I use it as a digital workspace, to display any screen for the whole class to see, as a large multi-touch drawing and brainstorming space and so much more. My interactive display is a must-have device. I wouldn’t want to teach without one. Recent research shows that large interactive displays are vital to the classroom ecosystem.
Happy Apples: FunPD Subscription Boxes for Teachers Made By the District
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e263
Date: February 28, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Crystal Marshall-Krauss @crystalmmarshal, Digital Learning Innovation and Design Resource Teacher from Maryland.
Now, Crystal, you and your team came up with this really cool subscription box type idea for PD for your teachers. You call it Happy Apples.
Tell us what this is.
So we came up with this to kind of address a couple of needs.
We saw so many people getting excited about subscription boxes, so we thought, “How can we use that? How can we use learning in some way?”
People get excited about subscription boxes
So we started prototyping it, and tested it out on a few teachers. They all loved it.
What they get is an actual physical cardboard box like a catalog mailer. Inside they have tons of little goodies.
They will have a curated list of online and digital content. We call those their personalized learning “bytes.”
They get some books, a student activity, other articles or magazines that meet their needs.
We always like to add a few other kinds of fun things that they can do, so we have thank you cards with prompts to send thank you cards to parents, students or colleagues during the time that they get the box.
They get one delivered five times a year, and we sneak into their schools and put it in their teacher mailbox, (laughs) so they get a surprise when they come to their mailbox at the end of the day.
They seem to really be enjoying it.
Vicki: Now you’re using Canva to kind of even put, “Here’s some people to follow on this topic.”
What other kind of things are you designing for these boxes?
Crystal: We use Canva for a lot of our printed content. It’s an easy design tool to use.
What kind of things are you designing for these boxes?
We will create student activities. At the beginning of the year, one of the ones that pretty much all of the teachers who got it used it, was really a student interview guide. Sort of to come up with some questions and some guiding thoughts behind that about how to interview students to find out more about them, and to kind of get more of a one-on-one relationship with the student.
A lot of teachers have a lot of students, so they were able to work in small groups and focus in on and learn some really interesting and new things about their students that they may not have had a chance to learn before.
We also create student handouts. We created a whole activity about listening to podcasts, with some sessions for some great podcasts, for students to be able to practice listening and getting their learning in a different way, and to be able to take notes. The great thing is that we have from K-8 teachers, so we have to differentiate a little bit for the different grade levels. It’s easy in Canva, because you can just make a copy, and kind of make those adjustments as appropriate.
Vicki: So how did you decide to customize these different boxes, because every teacher doesn’t get the same thing, do they?
Every teacher doesn’t get the same thing
Crystal: No, they don’t.
So it took a little bit of figuring that part out. We have a larger team, but there are a two of us that are really committed to this little side project that we came up with. The other (person) is a resource teacher in instructional technology, Karrie Truden.
So we had about ten topics that we felt we could probably get started with. We had enough information and knowledge and context to be able to pull together.
So we had the teachers choose between their top three out of those ten. We had hoped that several would pick the same three.
Crystal: But several of the same boxes did not turn out that way.
Vicki: (laughs) Oh my!
Crystal: So pretty much, everybody has a different combination of the three, or they’re at different grade levels, so they had to be changed a little bit anyway.
But that’s OK, so we kind of work on smaller pieces of information and content.
For instance, instructional technology is one item that I would say about 90% of our teachers were asking for.
So we create a couple of items or links to some articles, or find some magazines that we have articles that match up with their grade level. So we’ll kind of work on all of that.
Then when we put the boxes together, we take all the pieces and match them up for the individual teacher that we’re providing it for.
Vicki: So, tell us a story about one of the teachers that got this box, and it changed something in their classroom.
Crystal: So I would say that the biggest changes we’ve seen have really been in the student relationships.
The biggest changes we’ve seen have been in the teacher-student relationships
Seeing teachers say that they were really excited to have a new activity to try with their students. The student interview piece was a huge one that we got feedback on after the first box. The teachers were able to learn about different interests of the students, and then they created small group reading assignments around those interests for the students — which they may not have done before. That one was a huge thing for them.
We also have some specialists in the schools that are kind of on their own, They may not have another teacher in a similar role in the building. They really appreciated having things kind of customized just for them — the media specialist, the reading specialist, and that sort of thing.
Vicki: Wow. So you tried this with just a few teachers, and you’ve gotten some feedback now. What’s the feedback you’re getting, and how are you going to change this for the future?
Crystal: Our big goal is to double the number of teachers that we get for the last two boxes.
What’s the feedback you’re getting?
We met with a few of them to get some feedback, and they said, “We have so many colleagues that want one, too.”
One teacher said she ran down the hall, bringing everybody their boxes, saying, “We got our boxes!” (laughs)
Crystal: So we plan to send an invitation in the box that’s going out this week. They’ll be able to invite a colleague to join the last two boxes for the school year.
We’re trying to include more of the student activities — really kind of branching out in that area where we can start to differentiate a little bit more, and really get down to things that they can use right away, while also providing some kind of stretch and reading content that they may not have seen before.
Vicki: So, there are a lot of folks out there listening to the show who design professional development for teachers.
Now this is not a company you bought this from. You’re actually making these boxes yourself.
So what is your advice to those who are listening to this, saying, “Hey, I want to do my own versions of “Happy Apples,” and make some kind of subscription box for my teacher?
What is your advice to those who want to make their own version of this?
Crystal: So my advice would be to make sure you have a team of people. (laughs)
Crystal: And get really organized.
I think starting small — especially if you have the opportunity. You can get that feedback from them as you’re going, and figure out what’s really working, what do they want more of?
We keep asking them what they want us to change, and they keep saying they like everything.
Crystal: It’s a really fun kind of thing. I think probably the most fun thing that we’ve learned about this is to look at the things that people get excited about, and see how you can bring that into professional learning for teachers
We will share the link in the Shownotes to the Happy Apples idea.
This is a fantastic idea for professional development.
I even wonder if we could figure out a way to use this with our students, because everybody likes to get — basically, it’s a prize box, which we used to use that even in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I was a kid in school.
Vicki: So thanks, Crystal. I love this idea. We all need to be creative and get excited about learning.
Crystal: Great, thank you!
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Crystal has been an educator in Howard County Maryland for 12 years and currently serves as the Digital Learning, Innovation, and Design Resource Teacher. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband, two children, and two dogs.
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